Executives and coaches are frustrated that quality of play and preparations have suffered, and competitive balance is being compromised. Teams are struggling for ways to build camaraderie and chemistry when staffs and players are constantly being separated, and rituals once as simple as shoot-arounds became pointless when players sometimes have to wait an hour-to-90 minutes for the return of test results before they are allowed inside the facility.
Getting owners on board with another bubble could be challenging. “They don’t want to pay for it,” a high-ranking team executive told SI. Indeed, the cost of the Orlando bubble was in the neighborhood of $180 million. While the majority of teams are not bringing in gate revenue, the appetite for forking over millions to rebuild a secure environment is expected to be minimal.
But these are all unknowns. It’s worth noting that the NBA will have the infrastructure in place for a bubble The league announced this week that the G-League will play its season in a Disney bubble. In February, 18 teams will call Lake Buena Vista, Fla. home for a season that is expected to last around a month. There is also a growing number of team officials who believe, regardless of a bubble, that the NBA should consider a weeklong pause of the season. “It’s f------ crazy right now,” an NBA coach told SI. “Honestly, we go to work every day wondering who is going to be available.”
But the league sees evidence of an even greater risk of infection when the league's shuttered, which is another reason health and medical experts advising the NBA aren't pushing for a stoppage now, sources told ESPN. When players were tested upon returning to team training camps, the NBA saw spikes in positive tests -- including 48 cases on December 2.
Nurse’s view was more clear cut: "But I still say this, that until somebody [from the league] is going to the hospital getting really, really sick — I think we're still so unclear about what having the virus even means other than you don't wanna spread it … Even college football or baseball or NFL, I don't recall hearing anyone being taken to the hospital being gravely ill. So, I'm okay playing, we've gotta try the best we can to stay safe, we've gotta try to continue getting through life a little bit and just be as safe as we possibly can.”
Brad Townsend: Poor Josh Richardson, Dorian Finney-Smith and Jalen Brunson remain in Denver, I'm told. No indication of when/how they will be able to return to Dallas.
Malika Andrews: Kevin Durant, speaking to reporters for the first time since his health and safety protocols absence, says he was confident he wasn't going to be infected with COVID again (he had it in May) and was able to do cardio and weight training at his home.
Some team executives have privately raised concerns in the turbulent past several days, but commissioner Adam Silver has remained committed to pushing through games with a minimum of eight available players per team and trying to complete as much of the schedule as possible prior to widescale access to vaccinations that could start to bring normalcy back to the league and country.
Tom Orsborn: Asked if Spurs are taking extra precautions with Becky Hammon, Drew Eubanks and a staffer in COVID-19 protocols, Pop replied, "We are doing everything possible. There's not much more we can do." He also said he has not been vaccinated.
Sopan Deb: NEW from NBA spokesman Mike Bass: “We anticipated that there would be game postponements this season and planned this season accordingly. There are no plans to pause the season. We will continue to be guided by our medical experts and our health and safety protocols.”
Brian Mahoney: Michael Malone learned of the Heat-Celtics postponement on his way to game at MSG, where his Nuggets are without Michael Porter Jr. "You are starting to see what is going on in our country directly affect the NBA because we are no longer in that safety net of a bubble," he said.
Adrian Wojnarowski: ESPN Sources: While the Celtics-Heat game has been postponed tonight, the NBA has no plans to pause the season despite thinning rosters because of COVID-19 protocols in several places.
Chris Mannix: Right now the NBA's plan is to ride this recent rough patch out. The expectation was January could be a tough month, and it has been. Still -- there are a growing number of team officials that are hoping the league pauses the season, even for a week.
Brad Townsend: I'm told that, while the NBA has no plans to pause the season despite today's Boston-Miami game and rising player absences across the league, there most likely will be additional protocols put into place in the coming days -- with the impetus coming from the players association.
Shams Charania: The Boston Celtics-Miami Heat game tonight has been postponed, sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium. A Heat player has returned an inconclusive test, and team does not have required eight players to proceed with game tonight due to contact tracing.
Alex Schiffer: Nash said he thinks Tyler Johnson is on the same week-long protocol as Durant was in terms of contact tracing. He'll be out the next few games. Said he wants to ramp Durant back up after a week away from the team but still wants to treat things carefully in terms of restrictions.
Shams Charania: Nets’ Kevin Durant is listed available to play today vs. OKC. Kyrie Irving is listed out due to personal reasons.
Mark Murphy: Source confirmed that Tatum's second COVID test came back positive as well, sending Brown, Ojeleye and Green into quarantine.
Fred Katz: Bradley Beal is available to play tomorrow against the Suns, the Wizards say.
TJ McBride: Source: all Nuggets players and staff members with the team returned negative COVID tests — both rapid and regular — this morning. So despite playing Dallas three days ago and Philadelphia last night, Denver’s roster is ready to go.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Bradley is expected to miss more time with team than just tonight's game, sources tell ESPN.
Shams Charania: Dallas Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber is entering isolation and will miss 10-to-14 days due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium.
In these first three weeks of the season, the league is learning that the hard way. One team official asked before the season, half-jokingly, if it would wind up going on a road trip and leave players in one city after another as it went. So far, two teams -- the Chicago Bulls and Dallas Mavericks -- have had to leave players behind; and in another instance, staff from the LA Clippers had to drive back home from Salt Lake City. The Toronto Raptors, who are playing in Tampa, Florida, this season, reversed course on having fans in attendance at games this week due to spikes in the virus.
"I do think the reality is that we know this is rampant right now," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "And we're doing everything we can, as I've said before, to prevent it, and it's still going to find its way into the league, through travel parties; so we're all assuming some level of risk. "And I think we accept that and, at the same time, we trust that the people in charge have health and safety as the No. 1 priority; and if it becomes too much, that'll be somebody else's decision who's an expert at it."
The Nuggets will arrive at the Garden on Sunday having played their last two games against the 76ers — who played with eight active players Saturday because of health and safety protocols stemming from Seth Curry’s positive test — and the Mavericks, who have quarantined three players after one tested positive following Thursday’s game in Denver. “We just gotta do our part individually,” Knicks guard Austin Rivers said Saturday. “It’s tough, though. It is everywhere. Unfortunately in our country, people don’t wear masks all the time. You have ignorance displayed every day, which is causing this to be more delayed and more serious. … It’s frustrating to see people mess around with that stuff. We just control what we control and do our part. The Knicks have done a great job of keeping us in line with that stuff.”
Brad Townsend: Rick Carlisle says Dorian Finney-Smith, Josh Richardson and Jalen Brunson are still in Denver. Burke is available tonight.
Brad Townsend: Rick Carlisle: "We’re all dealing with a vast set of circumstances, so we’ve got to remain calm and we’ve always got to have a plan for adversity. We’ve been expecting that this kind of thing was certainly a realistic possibility and now we’re dealing with it.”
Brad Townsend: Carlisle: "We've got to remain calm. We've been expecting this sort of thing." It is what it is, what the NBA is going through right now.
Shams Charania: Wizards star Bradley Beal is out for tonight vs. Miami due to health and safety protocols and contact tracing exposure to Jayson Tatum, sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium.
Ava Wallace: Bradley Beal is OUT tonight vs. Miami due to the league's Health and Safety protocols, per source. Beal has not tested positive, he's wrapped up in contact tracing.
Tim Bontemps: Celtics say: Kemba Walker (knee), Grant Williams (health & safety), Robert Williams (H&S), Romeo Langford (wrist), Tristan Thompson (H&S) are out tomorrow vs Miami. Jayson Tatum (H&S) is doubtful. Semi Ojeleye (H&S), Jaylen Brown (H&S), Javonte Green (H&S) are questionable.
Duane Rankin: "I think it's something we're going to see throughout the year. I'm sure the league is prepared for what could be a stoppage at some point if it gets too bad." #Suns coach Monty Williams when asked about Philadelphia having #NBA minimum 8 players today. Was an assistant there.
Malika Andrews: Kevin Durant (health and safety protocols) is listed as probable for Sunday’s game against the Thunder, according to the latest injury report. Kyrie Irving (personal reasons) is listed as questionable.
Anthony Chiang: Erik Spoelstra on COVID-19 issues that Celtics and 76ers are currently dealing with: "There is an element of unknown and uncertainty. It's just a reality. It makes everybody feel a little bit uncomfortable." Calls it "sobering news."
Tim Reynolds: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, on Philly playing with 7 guys, etc.: "The numbers are spiking. That is the reality. We are committed to proceeding with our industry and we're doing it with all the best science and adherence to the protocols, but ultimately we're not in control.."
Mark Murphy: Per source: Jayson Tatum tested positive for Covid today, and is now awaiting the results of a confirmation test. He is asymptomatic.
Shams Charania: Boston Celtics All-NBA star Jayson Tatum is expected to enter quarantine and miss 10-to-14 days due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.
Scott Agness: A limited number of fans will soon be allowed at Pacers home games, where a lot is different. - Pre-arrival screening/x-ray machines - Mandatory masks - Seating pods - Only cards accepted.
Adrian Wojnarowski: The Sixers-Nuggets game will be played today, sources tell ESPN.
Adrian Wojnarowski: The Sixers are expected to have nine eligible players today, including three cleared from protocol: Joel Embiid, Danny Green and Paul Reed, sources tell ESPN.
Shams Charania: 76ers’ Tobias Harris, Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle and Vincent Poirier are each out today vs. Denver due to health and safety protocols and will receive quarantine period, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium .
Kurt Helin: Raptors announce they will pause having fans at games in their temporary Tampa Bay home arena because "...COVID-19 numbers across west central Florida have risen sharply in recent days. The facility will remain closed to fans through at least February 5"
The NBA is teetering on the season's second coronavirus-related game postponement, as the Philadelphia 76ers await the league's ruling on the submission of a contact-tracing report of several players who shared close proximity to guard Seth Curry, sources told ESPN.
Shams Charania: A member of the 76ers training staff has registered a positive coronavirus test, leading to additional contact tracing within team, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. NBA is continuing its review process.
Kevin Durant is expected to play against the Thunder after missing three games due to the league’s coronavirus health and safety protocol. Durant came in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 1 and the league requires players quarantine and register consecutive negative coronavirus tests for seven days from the day of the encounter.
Chris Haynes: Memphis Grizzlies say center Jonas Valanciunas will not return for the second half of tonight's game against Brooklyn Nets game due to health and safety protocols.
Shams Charania: Jonas Valanciunas leaving tonight’s game is not due to a positive coronavirus test, per team source.
Drew Hill: No positive test for JV, team sources say, which could mean it's a contact tracing issue. Wouldn't make sense for him to play if he tested positive, but the issues last night prove otherwise, I suppose.
Marc Stein: The Sixers, I'm told, are still in New York after a day of contract tracing and waiting for coronavirus testing results They are scheduled to play Denver at home tomorrow in a 3 PM matinee
Rich Hoffman: The rule is that you need eight players in uniform. For now, Sixers only seem to have: Ben Simmons, Tyrese Maxey, Isaiah Joe, Dakota Mathias, Dwight Howard, and Tony Bradley. Going to need at least two of the players listed as questionable to suit up to avoid a postponement.
Marc Stein: The Mavericks have listed Josh Richardson, Jalen Brunson and Dorian Finney-Smith as out for Saturday's home game against Orlando due to the league's health and safety protocols
Mirjam Swanson: Kerr on any COVID-related logistical issues the Warriors have faced: "Knock on wood, we have not had any issues since training camp, we are constantly reminding everyone on our team and our staff to continue to be smart."
Shams Charania: 76ers’ players currently listed questionable for Saturday vs. Denver due to health and safety protocols: Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Danny Green, Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle, Vincent Poirier, Paul Reed
Seth Curry, held out of Thursday’s game with an ankle injury, was removed from the Sixers’ bench and placed in isolation after being notified of the positive test during the first half, according to two people familiar with the circumstances who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the details publicly.
“An initial positive test received during a game, when a player has already tested negative that day, results in the player’s immediate removal but does not trigger the cancellation of a game,” said David Weiss, the league’s senior vice president for player matters.
Weiss added: “The testing strategy we have implemented of two daily P.C.R. tests creates a process that aims to identify an infected individual before they become infectious to others. Combined with our data that analyzes contact time and distance during on-court play, our experts believe that the game can safely proceed in these circumstances.”
Michael Singer: League source: If a player was positive and played in a game, it doesn't necessarily mean both teams' next games would be impacted. I.e., If a player was positive in last night's Nuggets-Mavs game, that doesn't automatically mean Denver's next game (@ PHI) would be affected.
Malika Andrews: Steve Nash said the Nets weren’t aware during Thursday’s game against Philadelphia of Seth Curry’s positive test. They found out later. Curry sat on the bench for the first quarter of the game before the positive test result returned.
Kendra Andrews: Despite positive covid tests on the Mavericks (who the Nuggets played yesterday) and the 76ers (who the Nuggets are scheduled to play tomorrow) Denver is fully expecting to play tomorrow and hasn’t been told anything contrary to that, according to league sources
May 26, 2022 | 4:33 am EDT Update
He offered that with a caveat though. “I’m just reporting what I was hearing at the Combine – and that is multiple people connected to other teams, agents, etc., the chatter at that Combine, the representation of that chatter is that Zach is very much in play,” Johnson said. “Now that said, the Bulls are still very confident in their ability to re-sign Zach LaVine. Michael Reinsdorf has said it. Arturas Karnisovas has said it. They still have the power to pay him more than any other franchise.”
So what should we expect to happen? K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago joined the Mully & Haugh Show on Tuesday morning to discuss LaVine’s future. “The safe bet is still that Zach will return (to Chicago),” Johnson said.
Duncan Robinson’s five-year deal he signed last summer was significantly laden with incentives, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. In what was reported as a deal worth $90 million, the final $10 million are only guaranteed should the Heat win an NBA title over the next five years.
Brown’s 19-point, 0-turnover second half — coupled with an 18-point second half from Jayson Tatum — allowed Boston to finally break open what was a rock fight in the first half, as the Celtics went on to win 93-80 over the Heat, moving Boston to within one more win of its first trip to the NBA Finals in 12 years.
“Same player,” Brown said from the first half to the second. “Just had to get settled in. That’s it. As the game wears on, some of that energy, some of that intensity starts to wear off, so the game opens up a little bit. The game opened up for me in the second half. “I didn’t want to get down. I didn’t want to look into the past, think that this game was over. My team needed me to come out and respond. “First half was s—. Threw it away. [Just] come out, play basketball in the second half.”
Boston’s path to this moment has not been the idyllic storybook tale — at least not yet — but it has been awfully effective just the same. “The mental stress and strain we put on some teams with our defense has worked and carried us through the playoffs at times,” Udoka said. “You saw in the Brooklyn [Nets] series, guys started to wear down. Game 7, [Giannis] Antetokounmpo slowed down some. But having all those bodies to continue to throw at people wears down on them.”